When You Fall

This writing thing is not precisely scary.  I mean, you’re never going to break a leg.  Or two.  Or freeze working out in the snow, because you are just too tired to walk back home.

And yet… and yet sometimes you fall and you can’t get up.Because what you’re doing is sort of labor: you’re birthing something new that didn’t exist before.  And if you don’t see any results (I understand in indie production is more closely tied to rewards.  But I need to get myself up off the floor to go indie) year after year, at points you fall.  You’re on your face, crawling along, unable to function.

You might have trouble starting things, you might have trouble finishing things.  You might avoid your desk like the plague.  You might find yourself obsessively cleaning, taking an interest in gardening.

It’s always bad when things get so difficult that your creative needs try to find other outlets.  You might find yourself overwhelmed with an urge to sew or do fabric sculpture.  In a very very bad year, I took art classes.  Obsessively.

So what gets you through?

I don’t know.  I know the ropes that worked in the past.  Some of them are inoperative now.

But some of the things that worked for me in the past might work for you now.

1- You need money.

Yes, I know, it’ not a great incentive.  Rather, let me put it this way: it sucks as an incentive longterm.  But if we hadn’t desperately needed money to pay a double mortgage (we’d moved) I’d have quit in 2003.  Some days I wanted to do anything but write.  But I needed money. So I wrote, as long as the projects came in.  (This arguably works best with trad, because you know how much you’re going to get paid and — roughly — when.)

2- You’ve got friends.

It’s as good a time as any to thank Kate Paulk and Amanda Green who, through at least a year 2010) kept me writing by literally reading every half dozen pages I wrote and cheering me on.

It can’t have been easy, but it helped.

3- You just make yourself do it

This works great until you realize you’re really not doing anything, because you’re avoiding writing and you won’t let yourself do anything till you write.

4- You go away and re-set your mind.

Hotels work for me.  It’s a combination of not being able to do anything else, and being in a strange environment with no distractions: no cats, no friends, preferably no internet.

The question is not if you will fall.  You will fall.  Either through lack of success, through too much success (some people become scared they can’t do it again.)  Either through tiredness, or illness, or whatever, there will come a day you’d rather do anything else than write.

The question is this: when you die — will you be all right with all the unwritten books?

If you’re facing death and know the stories, the ideas that were never written will die with you, will they haunt you?

Because if you’re not all right with it, then surely you’ll have to pick yourself back up.

Anyway you can.


  1. “If you’re facing death and know the stories, the ideas that were never written will die with you, will they haunt you?”

    No. Definitely not. I prefer to believe they’ll all be there waiting for you, with all your dogs and cats.

  2. This writing thing is not precisely scary. I mean, you’re never going to break a leg. Or two. Or freeze working out in the snow, because you are just too tired to walk back home.

    I don’t know that I would necessarily count on that. Perhaps those specific things are unlikely to happen, but you should never underestimate the ability of the truly uncoordinated among us to hurt ourselves no matter what the activity.

    I remember having to nurse my husband through an injury gotten at the poker table. It’s hard to get the right amount of sympathy for a gruesome poker injury.

      1. He bumped against the box under the table where the dealers collect the fee for the casino. It had a sharp edge and gave him a pretty nasty cut.

  3. Well, with Indie you start prone and have to get up before you can fall. And when you do, your past record of sales can be a pretty thin thing to try to use as a prop to help you get up.

    But the floor’s hard and cold, and a really stupid place to start a new story. Yeah, how this new character get here in the first place . . . so, so far I’ve kept right on getting back up.

    I just got a reminder this morning that the threat of “Either write or redo another cover.” works very well for me.

      1. Yeah. At least mine are up and for sale, even with the old really, really, bad, outdated covers. And I really don’t like doing covers, even though I’m finally getting reasonably good at it. Sort of.

          1. Yeah. And then the “in” style will change and you have to do them over again. Speaking of which, I should take a stroll through B&N and take a look at covers before I start changing mine.

      2. Ah yeah the threat of “I’m going to make you…”

        “…do the thing I’ve been doing/planning to do all along?”

        Do your mind-demons get as.. irritated.. as people who discover their threats are like unto tissue that has seen significant moisture?

    1. I vote for write – I’ve already got the covers you don’t like. Cooking Hot was great. Review posted.

  4. I don’t know. For the fires few years, Jan-early Mar were “no write” times, when I just could not motivate myself to do more than reread what I’d already done, polish on things, and read books (non-fiction). Now I write. I think knowing that my time is now limited kicks me to make myself write even when I really have to drag my rump into the chair. It is my reward. Being forced to not write for a chunk of June also seems to help, although stories still leak into my mind. Or out of my mind. Or yes.

  5. I even got into the “I must work on *this* and therefore can work on nothing before I work on this but I’m avoiding working on this so I do nothing” cycle at my day job.

    I finally broke that by breaking up my day into “time to do this” which still not get done and “time to do other things” which meant that other things *did* get done, which made it easier not to hard-avoid the first thing, too.

    And I’m hard HARD into a “can’t do any other writing thing until this vitally important writing thing has been done” for the better part of a year where the result has been doing next to no writing at all.

    I’m not sure why the obvious is never obvious but *obviously* I should mark out time for writing activities so “now it’s time to write” gets a slot and “this thing you must do because it is the most important thing” has a time slot.

  6. Number 3 – “You just make yourself do it. This works great until you realize you’re really not doing anything, because you’re avoiding writing and you won’t let yourself do anything till you write.”

    Resonates with me. Been there, done that. This totally sucks the joy out of writing.

  7. I am not a writer. But I am a maker, or I claim to be. And so much of this post resonates it makes me feel like I am deluding myself. I describe myself to others as a woodturner, but I have not stood in front of the lathe since May. Huh? My creative alternatives the last couple or three years are occasionally making jewelry, and writing those Sunday vignettes, except when I don’t.

    What helps? #2 – friends. I attend a monthly Bead Nite that lets me show off the one or two things I’ve actually finished, and gives me a nudge to start something new. I also chat two nights a week with woodturning friends, who give me encouragement. Not enough to get me in the shop to turn wood, but fortunately they like my jewelry pics. 😉

    #3 – Just make yourself do it. No, it doesn’t work that way. Never has for me. I can find all kinds of other things that should get done first. And since I don’t want to do most of them, I stall and end up reading or on the computer. And feeling depressed that I am not in the shop and guilty that I’m not doing much else.

    #4 – going away to work. Totally not an option. The lathe weighs 300 pounds and I can’t take it with me. 😉 Besides, I don’t have any money to go away anywhere.

    Instead, I keep reading MGC, hoping I can find some new ideas and inspiration. I LOVE wood and woodturning in the same way many of you love writing. I just don’t DO it very much.

    In “Art and Fear” (David Bayles and Ted Orland) there is a quote by Stephen DeStaebler at the top of chapter II. “Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of NOT working.”

    It seems I have a very high tolerance for the pain of not working. And I have never figured out how to change that.

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